The three primary ideologies view community in different ways. For classical conservatives, communities are the “little platoons” (Edmund Burke’s term) that provide a natural moral compass to socialize each new member of society from generation to generation. To use another Burke line: community is a compact between those who have died and those who have yet to be born. Conservatives believe they possess objective criteria to weigh one set of social arrangements as morally superior to that of another to a sufficient degree in which the state should intervene in our lives and regulate this private sphere.

Classical liberals don’t sweat community. The free-market perspective expects community to just happen, without a role for the state. Liberals assume community to be whatever people do together on a voluntary basis and place no public-policy-implying concern over one system of voluntary interaction over another.

Like conservatives, socialists also focus state power on the community. The left places an objective value on community, stressing that no community is a true community unless every member shares a similar socioeconomic status. It’s no accident that “commune” is the root word of both “community” and “communist.”

We naturally have a hard time imagining similarities between conservatives and socialists. Yet a belief that the community is so important, that there is a right way and there is a wrong way to live as a community, that the state then has a role in enforcing its proper design are perspectives that set both conservatism and socialism apart from liberalism.

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is also the author of We were winning when I was there.